How to beat fake news


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamThe fake news plague which hit pandemic levels during the US election is still going on, in slightly reduced, but equally nasty, ways. There are ways of beating this disgusting crap, and they’re pretty simple.

Fake news is based on:

  • Attacking other people or groups, directly or indirectly.
  • Appeals to sympathy, prejudice, and political perspectives.
  • Specific features of a “crime” or “event” which mirror hate speech.
  • “News” which just happens to coincide with a recent statement by some public figure.
  • Combinations of the above, in any form.

The immortal Celts in EnglandLet’s not get too cute about this. Bad things happen in this world. It’s just they don’t usually happen quite so conveniently, at all the right times, in conjunction with speeches or propaganda campaigns.

Real news also doesn’t come in cookie-cutter form. It has specific characteristics. Every story is different enough to be an actual event, not a made-up one.

The basic counter to fake news is “Don’t instantly believe anything without corroboration.” There’s usually a lot of collateral evidence to any real story. This is a fundamental principle of real journalism.

For example:

If an accident happened, there will be:

  • Actual victims
  • Ambulances
  • Police in attendance
  • Blocked roads and traffic backing up
  • Local coverage, and other coverage, will be around the story.
  • Witnesses saying pretty much the same thing but with different views based on where they were at the time.

A reporter would check with a local hospital to see how many people were admitted. Local police would make a statement, usually not much, but confirming some details.  All of this information is findable in about 15 minutes, if you know where to look.

Defining fake news

Fake news, however, comes with little or no corroboration and some “interesting” sources:

  • None, or barely any of the corroboration as happens with a real news story is present.
  • Fake news tends to be sensational, usually at a well-known person or group.
  • Usual themes are crimes, sex, or something “immoral” by community standards.
  • Allegations, usually baseless but damaging, are normal for fake news.
  • Whatever is reported will come out of the blue, with no real background.
  • It breaks from minor league sources, or sources affiliated with someone or something.
  • Nobody else covers it. It’s standalone, most of the time.
  • Sources are vague or badly defined, and tend to be similar publications in terms of what they publish and why they publish it.
  • A surge of copycat “anger” emerges, everyone using the same phrases and keywords. Trolls will emerge like a microwave timer, right on time to go viral with something that never happened at all.

Pretty damn simple, isn’t it?

Ads_Cover_for_KindleSo are the people who make fake news. These are the panel beaters of fake realities. They aim for the lowest common denominator, which means they can’t miss hitting someone. They’re the self-proclaimed good guys, defending the public from a non-existent threat.

If you check their other “work”, it will be a patchwork of similar sewer-grade “news”. They’re career fakes. Hit any link, with your anti-virus up to date, and you’ll see a sort of Diary of a Wannabe Journalist, big stories and everything, all fake news.

Most of them are paid fakes. Few people would do this if they weren’t paid to do it.

It’s so bizarre that even American media, that bus stop to pornography for morons, expects decent money for it.

Beating fake news

To beat fake news:

  • Don’t simply believe things. Check them out.
  • Who else is covering it? Nobody, or just the usual suspects? Probably fake.
  • How much of the story is real, and how much is pure ranting?
  • Hearsay isn’t news. How much of it comes from those actually involved?
  • Allegations are allegations, not news. Accusations aren’t law, either.
  • Are there other, consistent, bits of information which back up the story?

It’ll save you a lot of aggravation.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books